One of the thrills of a new college basketball season is getting to see your favorite team’s freshman take the floor for the first time. For a few games, at least, each new player is a relative unknown. Sure you can look up their high school stats, but how good was their competition? Will their game translate well from high school to college?
The remainder of this article attempts to bridge that knowledge gap. I’ll share what I know about Iowa’s four freshman from watching their performance in the exhibition and a high school game or two. Then I’ll attempt to guess what role they might fill on this year’s Iowa squad.
Kate Martin- 6’0'’ Guard/Wing from Edwardsville, Illinois
What stands out most about Martin’s game is that she does a bunch of little things well. She wasn’t a flashy scorer in high school, averaging only 16.2 points per game, but she did shoot well from three. She was also one of her team’s primary ball-handlers, and averaged nearly 3 assists per game.
Most impressive to me were her rebounding and defense. Martin averaged nearly 6 rebounds per contest in high school, which was due more to positioning and drive than height. Defensively, she did a good job sticking with anyone she was asked to guard. She was also active in passing lanes, averaging more than 2 steals per game.
Role: Coming into the year, I thought Martin would be the favorite to be Iowa’s third guard/wing off the bench. Her skills won’t make her the flashiest player to wear the black and gold, but they are well suited to make a meaningful contribution right away. That thought was dashed over the summer, when Martin went down with a torn ACL. She’ll redshirt this year, and will wait to make her Hawkeye debut.
Monika Czinano- 6’3'’ Post from Watertown, Minnesota
Czinano probably has the highest ceiling of Iowa’s four freshman. In the exhibition, she scored 16 points on 8-14 shooting, and added 5 rebounds. Iowa’s competition in said exhibition wasn’t nearly the caliber of a Big Ten opponent, but it was still a nice debut. She showed an ability to get open in the post, good quickness for her size, and she already has the confidence to shoot, and make, open jump shots from outside the paint.
Those strengths should earn her some playing time early on, but if she wants to hit her ceiling, she’ll need to work on adding to several areas of her game. First, though she got open down low a lot, she wasn’t particularly great at finishing those chances. She missed a couple close shots with only minimal obstruction from opposing defenders. Czinano also isn’t a particularly strong rebounder yet. She gets her fair share due to her size, but she’ll need to work on positioning and aggressiveness to become above average. Finally, she needs to use her height to become more of a defensive presence in the post.
The good news for Czinano is that those weaknesses are all things that Megan Gustafson excels at. A year under Gustafson and the Iowa coaching staff’s tutelage should do wonders to improve her game. If she learns from them, and can continue to develop overall, she could well be on an All-Big Ten list someday.
Role: It’s pretty clear the Iowa coaching staff is high on Czinano. She was the first post off the bench in the exhibition game, and logged 22 minutes overall. I expect that she’ll be Iowa’s first post off the bench for most of the year, assuming a fully healthy squad.
Tomi Taiwo- 5’10'’ Guard/Wing from Carmel, Indiana
Taiwo comes out of high school with a reputation as an excellent shooter. She broke her high school’s record by making 65 three pointers a season ago, and shot over 40% from 3 in the process. She also shot a phenomenal 92% from the free throw line in 2017 with her AAU team. In Iowa’s exhibition, she showed off her shooting skills, going 2-3 from behind the arc. Taiwo also showed the ability to impact things defensively, recording 2 blocks and 1 steal.
Role: Overall, I haven’t seen enough of Taiwo yet to know how good she is defensively, or how she might contribute as a rebounder or passer. What I do know is that shooting is more important in college basketball now than ever, and Taiwo excels at it. I expect that she’ll compete for the third guard/wing off the bench role this season, and her shooting should give her a leg up over Zion Sanders in that race.
Logan Cook- 6’1’' Wing from Iowa City, Iowa
Cook looked like a woman without a position last year for Iowa City West. They kept her down in the post a lot, taking advantage of her height on both the offensive and defensive end. She would float out beyond the 3 point line a fair amount, though, but never looked completely comfortable in doing so. She was also on a team with several other Division 1 athletes, and thus was never a focal point of the team’s offense like most of the other freshmen previously mentioned.
Coming into the year, I wondered if Iowa would try to move her to the wing permanently, or if they’d keep her in the post to add to the depth there. It seems, for now at least, that Iowa has decided to play her on the wing.
Playing on the wing is probably Cook’s best chance to maximize her potential. She’s a good athlete, and that plus her height should give her an advantage in rebounding and defending smaller players. She’s still pretty raw offensively, and will need to work more on shooting from 3. She did that some in high school, but not at the rate of someone who has played guard/wing their entire career. She went 1-3 from 3 in the exhibition, while adding 4 rebounds.
Role: Cook is still fairly raw as a player due to her transition to the wing. Her athleticism gives her some definite upside, though, and should transition well to the college level. She could compete for minutes on the wing this year, though I think it’ll take a year or two of development before she can challenge for a starting spot.
This is a solid, if not spectacular, freshman class for Iowa. Monika Czinano and Logan Cook, in particular, have the potential to develop into very good players, though that is far from a certainty. Tomi Taiwo and Kate Martin, meanwhile, both have skillsets that give them the potential to be starters someday, while making their floor solid bench contributors. This isn’t like Iowa’s now junior class, where Kathleen Doyle and Makenzie Meyer stepped into starting roles almost immediately, but each of them should contribute to Iowa’s success for years to come.